27 November 2008

Sixteen Cakes. I Mean Candles.

Today Male Offspring turned 16. He was born on Thanksgiving Day. He was overdue, and a big baby, so I'd been wanting him to just get on with it already or start paying rent. We'd been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house. For the first time in my adult life, I didn't have to cook! Or do dishes! I was bursting at the seams, had a gait like a defective Weeble, but I was about to be pampered! The night of the 25th, I told the future Male Offspring to hold off until Friday. The whole feast and no-dishes thing really had me going.

Later that night, I felt the first contraction. I spent Thanksgiving day in a hospital bed. At least the ex and the girls smuggled in some food, but I wasn't much into it at that point, after five hours of back labor from my just-shy-of-9-pounds bundle of joy.

So that's how Male Offspring made his grand entry on Thanksgiving Day. And I've been (mostly) very, very thankful for him ever since. Love that kid.

Sixteen years old. It was weird when the girls hit that number -- The Bohemian because she was the first, and Teen Demon because she was the first to drive. But it's weirder when your "baby" hits 16. I don't have kids anymore, I have young people. Next year, I won't have a single Child Tax Credit left. It's an odd feeling.

Teen Demon made him a chocolate cake with a big "16" spelled out in chocolate sprinkles. That was in addition to the multiple cakes, cookies, and brownies that accompanied him home from school. There was a donut cake, a miniature round cake, a giant cake with some kind of food-color-swirled glaze, a heart-shaped cake, and the aforementioned cookies and brownies. "Hey, where'd this cornucopia of cakes come from?" I inquire. I'm informed that they were kindly provided by his "awesome friends". Namely Sophie, Kristen, Hannah, Lindsay, Trinity, Sylvia, Hailey, and Kiahna.  

His cynical aunt queried, "Ask him did any boys make him a cake."

See, this is what Hungarian schools do for a kid. Seriously. In Hungarian school, students moved together as a class from 1st through 8th grade. Like a cohort. For the first four years, Male Offspring and his classmates were even in the same room, with the same teacher. In 5th grade, you get different teachers for each subject, but you still move as a group to each subject. Classmates are seen more as cousins than as potential love interests. Crushing on a classmate? That's one step away from incest. Eeew. By the time 7th and 8th grade roll around, students look to the other classes for their crushes and to their own class for support, friendship, and bickering.

There was none of this "Girls have cooties!" or "Boys! Eeeeew!" business. Male Offspring used to go to sleepovers at his little friend Viktor's house, where half the attendees were girls. No big deal. Girls and boys changed for gym class together right there in the classroom. Even in 8th grade, the Bohemian and her classmates would change into their dress clothes for choir performances all together. Zsuzsi has pink panties? Who cares, she's like your sister, dude. The kids watched out for each other. It really was similar to familial relationships.

Fast forward to 2003, when a very un-American Male Offspring hits US school for the first time in his life. Being a naturally social and adaptable kid, he makes friends easily. Since he was unaware that girls have cooties, he made friends with girls too. The other boys started to notice. In 6th grade, he'd hear from guys he thought were his friends, smirking, "Dude, are you gay or something?" He kept being nice to the girls. They thought him adorable.

Fast forward to 2005. Middle school. The guys, exchanging their smirks for scowls, no longer threw around the G-word. The girls thought him really adorable. Once, I was sitting in the stands for a wrestling match, and heard a gaggle of girls behind me.

Oh.My.God. He.Is.So.Cute.

Yeah, but he's super sweet! It's so funny he's like, a killer wrestler!

Ohmygod, I KNOW!

Is he coming out yet?

Okay, seriously? We have to yell, like, really loud, so he'll see us.

Ohmygod, I know! It's going to be so funny!

He'll be so surprised by our sign!

Ohmygod, I KNOW!

How cute, I think. Young crushes. Poor guy won't know what hit him. Back to the match. Male Offspring's turn, he's out on the mat. Suddenly, the gaggle of girls behind explodes into a cacophony of girlness.


Oh. Oh! Is there another Male Offspring on the team? There is not. I turn around to see them furiously waving their glittery sign at my son. Then they're looking me, wondering why this white lady is staring at them. "I'm his mom," I tell them. They blanched. (no one ever suspects I'm his mom. I get to hear all kinds of interesting tidbits that way.)

Fast forward to the present day. He still has tons of girl friends (as evidenced by this year's cake-fest), and has had three serious girlfriends since 8th grade. Well, as serious as it is at that age. He's kept his head about him, for the most part, and continues just to be a kid who's very sweet to young women. Which they find adorable, lord help me.

That's what Hungarian schools will do for a kid. Being handsome, sweet, smart, and living in a household of women doesn't hurt either. Lord help me.

So the boy fell hard via sugar crash last night. He said it felt like everything just slowed down. Like the Matrix but without the badassedness. You don't feed an athlete's body that many cakes with no repercussions.

Happy Birthday, Son. Still thankful for you.

22 November 2008

Generation Text

I've probably mentioned Teen Demon's documented addiction to text messaging. When I say addiction, I mean in the literal sense. Last month the girl had 10,000 messages to her credit. Even the US Texting Champion only runs about 8,000 per month. On the rare occasions her phone malfunctions or runs out of juice, she displays classic signs of withdrawal: anxiety, shaking hands, irritability, inability to focus, clammy skin, the whole bit.

It was the facial tics and repetitive hand motions that made me consider an intervention.

She sleeps with the thing under her pillow, for 24/7 access. I'm pretty sure she and her friends will become the next Borg Collective, phones melded to skulls, unable to make a move without the input of the Collective. I once asked her if nighttime texts couldn't wait until morning. After all, if it's an emergency, they'll actually CALL you, right? Anything else probably doesn't warrant waking up at 3:37am. Her eyes about popped out of her head. "Yeah, right!!" she scoffed, clutching her phone possessively. "I wouldn't be able to sleep!"

But seriously, is it really crucial to see, "OMG im so bored. r u sleeping?" before you wake up in the morning? It's like when she was four and thought she'd miss something after going to bed.

Teen Demon is always on the go. Even before she left for college, a goodly portion of our relationship was predicated on texting. Now that she's at college, she's stepped it up to the next level. Things that would be discussed vis a vis in most mother-daughter relationships are presented to me on a handheld LCD screen. That tinny alert from the depths of my purse could be anything.

Like these:

So im thinking of getting a tattoo.

So i don't actually need to pass math to graduate.

Nose piercings r so cute.

Going to a hookah bar.

I'm getting my belly button pierced.

L8r, im in court now.

Court sucks!

College has so many parties!

If you just went by her text history, you'd wonder just what kind of wild, delinquent hooligan I've raised, here. Anyway, I was thinking recently I should be compiling these nuggets of history. Like a baby book, only more stressful. Those are among the more traumatic memorable communications, but hundreds more are forever lost from the memory stores of my brain.

Here's today's entry from the compendium of treasured communications with a loving daughter:

I'm thinking about getting a motorcycle license. It's only $125.

Like I don't have enough to worry about with two of the little devils off to college. My reply? "Tuition is a better investment. Especially since you live in the rain capital of the universe."

Welcome to text hell. I'll keep u posted, LOL. L8r!

13 November 2008

Go In Peace, Cadbury.

Today was a sad day. Our rabbit, Cadbury, died today. He was eight years old. The Bohemian got him for her 13th birthday. (I was thinking her 12th, putting him at nine years old, but she says 13th, and her memory on these things is better than mine.) What's really sad is that she's due to come home next week. Teen Demon said it's probably better that the Bohemian didn't see him sick. I guess that's true. He was a funny rabbit with a distinct personality.

He was acting sick yesterday. He wouldn't eat - completely unlike him - and wasn't hopping around. He drank a little chamomile tea last night, and today I fed him some with a syringe, but he really just didn't want anything.

This morning I wrapped him in a towel and took him outside. I just had a bad feeling. We sat in the sun for a while, and I held him his favorite way - cradled like a baby. He was just so still. I think he liked smelling the fresh air and being in the sun though.

When I picked Male Offspring up from school, he went straight to see how Cadbury was. That's when we found he had died. He just looked like he was sleeping. It was almost like he waited until after he'd been outside and cuddled one more time.

It's times like this when it's really nice to have a son. He called his big sister. He got the shovel, chose a place in the yard under the trees and near where the rhododendrons, bleeding hearts, and bluebells bloom in spring.

We buried Cadbury with his hay, his toy rabbit that looked just like him, some of his food, and some lavender sprinkled over him. The son arranged big rocks over the top in a circle. We each said things we liked and remembered about Cadbury, and said goodbye.

The Bohemian with Cadbury at about two years old.

Cadbury shaking open his treat box, as a much-younger Male Offspring looks on.

Scratching an itch

Santa Rabbit with Teen Demon

Bad (but clever) Rabbit!

Moving day, heading back to the States. The kids had marked items (Go or Stay) for the movers. Teen Demon wanted to make sure the movers knew that the rabbit was definitely in the "Go" pile.

Cadbury jumped up on the back of the couch. The Bohemian, age 15 or 16.

Rest in peace, Cadbury. You were good, bold, funny, and loyal. We'll miss you.

12 November 2008

This Old Motherfucking House: Episode VI

Episode VI: Tank Trouble

Illustrative purposes only.
At least I think it's Episode VI. I haven't named them all in sequence, so those of you thinking there have been at least six episodes of This Old Motherfucking House, you would be correct. Had I known it was going to be a friggin' series, I'd have started naming them in sequence from the get-go.

First off, I'm home sick today. Not at death's door, but feeling crappy just the same. So I drive Male Offspring to school in my pajamas with the full intention of returning to my nice warm bed. Upon my return, I hear water. NOT good. It's the toilet tank, overflowing. This is infinitely better than the lower portion of the toilet overflowing, trust me. At least it's clean water. But still, it's not doing my subfloor any favors. This happened a few weeks back, but I hadn't really had any problems since taking the tank lid off and yanking up part of the toilet's innards. Apparently my toilet was just biding its time. Waiting for a sick day. A rainy, cold, sick day.

Long time readers may remember the son and I installing this toilet not long after purchasing TOMFH. (You know, right before the housing market crashed. Yes, still bitter.) New toilets are not supposed to cause problems.

So who knows how much water flowed out of there before I got home. Also, the tub was partially full of water. Not sure how that relates to the toilet tank overflowing, since this shit never happens when I'm actually home, but there you go. So I take the plunger, go out to the back yard, where the grass is growing to jungle-like status due to the never-ending rain and my still-broken lawnmower (I was going to get it fixed until I had to pay for the new roof), open the overflow pipe and plunge the hell out of it until I hear the requisite loud sucking sound that is the water flowing freely.

Kind of reminded me of the sucking sound of consumer confidence draining out of our economy. Or the value being sucked out of our houses. Or the jobs draining out of the market. Or the Republicans draining out of the legislative and executive branches of our government. Yeah, let's stick with that one.

I think the pipe is starting to get those damn roots again. Fuck. Like I need a big ol' root growing into my pipes. Always leads to trouble.

AND, I still haven't changed the furnace filter for this winter. I've been putting that off as long as possible. No, I am not looking forward to skulking down to the dark maw of hell that is my crawl space, nor am I looking forward to skyrocketing electric bills. All hail the fireplace and my $50 Costco heater. Also, I've decided we're going back to our European habits - the dryer has been off limits except for extreme emergencies. No son, "But I like the black sweatshirt better than the brown one" does not qualify as an emergency - hang those clothes up to dry.

Hey, it adds up. Just like turning off lights and not running the water when you brush your teeth, right? I figure with all these little efforts, I can have the roof paid off before I have to buy my first walker or dentures.

Oh, and I think our rabbit is sick. When it rains it pours.

Thank You, All Who Serve.

Today is Veterans Day. Last week I went to a veterans panel at work, made up of students and staff who are veterans, and one staff member who is a veteran's mother. I was not on the panel, but all the veterans had to stand up and be recognized. Yes, even after all this time, it felt good to know that people are appreciative of those who have served, more so during this current climate of polarization this country has come to. It means something.

One of my colleagues is a Vietnam vet. He talked about how different it was, returning home then, from how it is now. It was hard to hear him talk about it, a man I know and respect, but it was good to hear that those returning from service today are largely supported, respected, and welcomed by their countrymen. At least we've come that far. (The lack of support and care from their government after returning is another topic for another day.) I'm a veteran, but I never had to serve in a war. Those who have, and those who are serving in harm's way right now, deserve our highest admiration and respect, whether or not you agree with the current administration's actions. One of my most fervent hopes for the new administration is increased support for our veterans and their families.

One of the younger vets on the panel talked about the red poppies worn by many on this day, the meaning behind it. Willym wrote about that very thing on his site. Please take a minute to read it.

08 November 2008

President-Elect Obama. What It Means.

I just like saying that. I still can't say it without my throat closing up a little bit. Yes, We Did, and all that. I have so much to say about this historic event, yet I can't seem to write anything of import.

It's too big, too much. I can't make it fit into words. And I kind of don't want to. Maybe later, but right now, the thought of trying to express what this means to me, to my children, let alone the country, Black America, the world ... I can't fit it into words yet. Not really. I mean, I can write this post about how wonderful it is, where I was that night, how I felt, but the bigger picture? How to express that?

When it was announced, all the stress and adrenaline I'd apparently been holding for months just fell away. Like I'd imagine a body would feel after running a marathon. I could not get a hold of myself. It was too big to fit into feelings, let alone words. It hasn't completely sunk in. I still find myself on the verge of tears, just hearing bits of the speech on the radio, or looking at pictures online, the faces of people's reactions -- Jesse Jackson, ohmygod, did you all see Jesse? What this must mean to him and Andrew Young and all the people who were there during the civil rights years ... I can't even think about that without my heart feeling off beat.

I was on the phone with the Bohemian when it was announced. The networks were counting down the seconds to release the Western states' numbers. We were wondering how long we'd have to wait, contemplating (cynically) whether there would be vote tampering, whether there would be problems, when all of a sudden my phone erupted in my ear, exploded, as the students at Howard University reacted to the news that Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States. At that moment it flashed across the TV: Barack Obama, projected winner. It happened so fast -- it took a few moments for either of us to realize it was real.

Hearing those Howard students, even just over the phone, had me laughing and crying at once. I will never forget that. The Bohemian said people were pouring outside, literally dancing in the streets.

Then Teen Demon called, Teen Demon who is not given to exuberant displays of emotion, called laughing and shouting and so happy, caught up in a student mob that was parading around campus and through surrounding neighborhoods. Later she sent me a video of students breaking into an impromptu version of the Star Spangled Banner. As a former soldier, that song still gets to me anyway, but to hear young people spontaneously singing on their own, reacting to the election of the first African American president; that means a lot more than hearing it at a sporting event or a parade. It meant something.

Male Offspring was at an election party at the high school with the debate team, and when I picked him up, he was practically bouncing out of his shoes, said he needed something to focus him (of course, he was referring to driving us home) because he was so hyped up from the excitement. Hugging him, I could only think about President-Elect Obama's mother and grandmother, how proud they would be, and how their son/grandson has made the future a different place for my son.

Earlier that night, I had been a little sad that we'd all be in separate places, but then I thought about how this election was so much about the young people this time, and I wanted my kids to have that memory, to experience this in crowds of young people who helped make this happen and who are our future. What I heard in my daughters' voices that night, what I saw in my son's face, means more than I can explain. It is too big to fit into words.

You go, President-Elect Obama. I'm proud and honored to have you as my president.